Preview: What Orlando City is looking for at the 2023 MLS SuperDraft

This 2023 MLS SuperDraft comes to you this Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET, with the first round streaming on MLSSoccer.com and live coverage on all Orlando City SC social media platforms.

Orlando City’s natural first-round pick is 17th overall, consistent with where the Lions have picked over the past couple of years thanks to three straight postseason appearances. However, thanks to last summer’s trade of Chris Mueller’s rights to Chicago, Orlando also has the Fire’s natural first-round pick, which fell all the way up at sixth overall. Not a bad bit of business.

City has been amongst the most successful teams in MLS in the SuperDraft since coming into the league in 2015, especially picking near the top of the draft. Here’s a look at some of Orlando’s best selections over the years.

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Cyle Larin (2015, 1st overall)

Awarded the No. 1 pick coming into their expansion season, Orlando City quickly pounced on the top player available, UConn striker Cyle Larin. The Canadian lit up the college game, scoring 23 times in 39 appearances for the Huskies, and was the obvious number 1 selection coming into the draft.

Larin lived up to his billing, to say the least. The No. 9 broke out with a 17-goal rookie season, winning MLS Rookie of the Year and breaking into the senior Canadian national team set-up for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and FIFA World Cup qualification. In three seasons for Orlando City, Larin scored 43 MLS regular season goals, leading the team in scoring in each of the franchise’s first three years in MLS. More recently, Larin has featured for Club Brugge in the Belgian top flight and the UEFA Champions League and appeared for Canada at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

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Richie Laryea (2016, 7th overall)

Another Canadian, Laryea was a bit of a project coming out of Akron. The Toronto native had 11 goals and seven assists in a sophomore season that saw the Zips reach the NCAA Tournament semifinals, but questions abounded about his positional fit at the professional level. 

Bouncing between Orlando City B and the first team over three years, Laryea never quite caught on with the Lions, producing just one assist across 22 appearances and 503 minutes in purple. Laryea moved to Toronto for the 2019 season and was moved from attacking midfield to fullback, where he became a locked-on starter for the Reds and earned a spot on Canada’s 2022 FIFA World Cup squad.

It may not have worked out for Laryea in Orlando, but the Lions once again found a top talent in the draft. In a wild note, Orlando City’s pick was even used on a top player in 2017, when Atlanta United used the selection to draft Julian Gressel (the Lions sent the pick to the Five Stripes for Donny Toia).

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Chris Mueller (2018, 6th overall)

Another major Orlando City draft success came in 2018, when the Lions snagged Big Ten Player of the Year Chris Mueller out of Wisconsin. Mueller, like Laryea, was a productive player on a good team whose position was open for debate. Some thought he’d be a No. 10, while others saw him more as a second forward.

After starting his rookie year at the second striker spot, Mueller gradually moved out wide, where he began to really make waves. He got hot in April, scoring in three consecutive matches, before fading down the stretch as the Lions’ results took a turn for the worse. Still, Mueller set the Orlando rookie record with seven assists and appeared to be a promising prospect. He continued to flash in 2019, scoring five times and chipping in four helpers for an improved but still inconsistent side.

2020 saw Mueller come into his own. “Cash” broke out with three goals in the first two games of the MLS is Back tournament and never looked back, finishing with 10 goals and seven assists in just 1,477 regular-season minutes. Mueller was second in MLS in goals and assists per 90 minutes and, with Nani, formed one of the most lethal winger tandems in the league. He finished his year with a Man of the Match debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team against El Salvador, scoring twice and assisting another goal in his first cap.

Mueller left Orlando for Scottish side Hibernian as a free agent after the 2021 season, finishing his Orlando City career with 22 goals and 24 assists in a club-record 126 appearances in all competitions. He even helped the Lions out last summer with the aforementioned trade of his rights to Chicago, netting Orlando a significant chunk of General Allocation Money in addition to the No. 6 overall pick.

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Kamal Miller (2019, 27th overall)

Orlando had done extremely well at the top of the draft, but with new Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi’s arrival came success in the later rounds as well. 

Kamal Miller was well-regarded for his leadership ability and poise coming out of Syracuse, but he somehow fell out of the first round and into Orlando’s range at the top of the second. Muzzi pounced, and Miller blossomed with the Lions, featuring at both center back and left back in two seasons for Orlando City, and making his way into the Canadian national team setup. 

Recognized for his talent, Miller was taken in the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft by Austin FC and immediately shipped to CF Montreal for a substantial haul – $225,000 in GAM and the 11th overall pick in the 2021 SuperDraft. Miller thrived in his native Canada, becoming one of the top center backs in the league and starting all three of Canada’s World Cup matches this fall in Qatar.

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Daryl Dike (2020, 5th overall)

It was a surprise when Virginia sophomore Daryl Dike declared for the MLS SuperDraft just days before the event. Despite experts declaring him the best player in the pool, Dike slipped to the No. 5 pick, where Muzzi did not hesitate to call his name.

Without much tape to go by, some wondered if the 20 year-old Dike was too raw to make an impact at the MLS level. Dike answered those questions immediately upon his move into the starting XI in August, scoring three goals and providing two assists in his first three games and winning the league’s Player of the Month award, the first rookie to do so since Jonathan Bornstein for Chivas USA in 2006. Dike finished the season with eight goals and four assists in 1,224 minutes, earning third in the league’s Young Player of the Year award.

Dike followed up his sterling rookie year with an incredible 2021. The powerful forward went on loan to Barnsley of the English Championship in February and transformed the side, taking the Tykes from 12th in the table all the way up to a promotional playoff berth. Dike scored nine times in 19 Championship appearances, while Barnsley sported a 13-3-3 record in his games. The Oklahoman then returned to Orlando and showed out, scoring 11 times in 19 matches while leading the Lions back to the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Dike finished the year with a transfer to top Championship club West Bromwich Albion, and while he missed most of 2022 with various injuries, the big man is back healthy and primed to continue his rise.

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Jack Lynn (2022, 18th overall)

Lynn didn’t see the field much for the first team in his rookie season after being taken late in the first round out of Notre Dame, but the forward was prolific for Orlando City B in the all-new MLS NEXT Pro second division. Lynn scored 15 times in just 18 appearances for OCB, finishing third in the league’s Golden Boot race. Lynn, who turns 23 in January, will enter preseason primed to compete for a larger role with Orlando City in 2023.

What talent will Orlando City unearth in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft? We’ll find out on Wednesday.